“When you’re drowning, you don’t clutch no straw,
When you’re drowning, you don’t clutch no straw.
You don’t want to live,
Don’t want to cry no more.” – Deep Purple
Back in 1972, my late friend Jack Carlson and I went to a concert at the International Amphitheatre in South Chicago. It was right after Deep Purple had released a great album called “Machine Head.” Deep Purple, at the time, had the reputation of being the loudest rock band in the business. Paradoxically, John Sebastian opened up for British rockers. Let’s just say the type of crowds the two bands might draw were divergent. This memory seems to come to the forefront of my thoughts every time we play the Mustard Men from Nashville.
One of Sebastian’s hits was a song entitled “Nashville Cats”. He has several other top twenties to his credit, but let’s just say they’re on the mellow side of the ledger. The longer he played, the more impatient the machine heads in the crowd became. After one song, one high flying monster started hollering “Deep Purple!” He was quickly joined by the rest of the anxious crowd. Realizing he was in a no win situation, Sebastian and his band picked up their instruments and headed for the exit in the middle of a song. So much for peace, love and understanding,” eh. We then sat about an hour and a half waiting for the boys who named a song about Viktor Stalberg, “Smoke on the (frozen) Water”
This will probably be brought up in a presidential debate if I decide to run in 2016, but we actually did some bad stuff when we took our seats. (I can only pray that the warning in Ex 36: 6-7 skips a generation, or two.) We were flying pretty high by the time Deep Purple ran onto the stage and tore into “Highway Star.” I recall Ian Gillan running up to the mike saying, “Sorry, we just got off the plane!” in that quaint English accent. Boy was it ever worth the wait. Jon Lord, who literally rocked his Hammond organ so much I thought it was going to tip it over, played at a volume that you could feel. He threw his hair and head to and fro with reckless abandon, much like a Yanni on steroids. Oh what I’d give to go back to that moment and hear “Space Trucking,” again.
I’m afraid right now Black Hawk fans, we’re being subjected to watching John Sebastian when we really came to see Deep Purple. With the “results” of the Hawks efforts lately, we might as well just stay in bed sobbing beneath our pillow. This isn’t to say the Hawks have been lazy, far from it. They say hard work gets rewarded or the harder you work, the luckier you get – if the hawks are a barometer of the wisdom in those adages, you can toss them smack dab into the middle of the deep blue sea. But am I the only one that feels were starting to turn the corner-that there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel. (Forget the fact that it’s probably an out of control freight train heading our way.) While I realize moral victories are the equivalent of being called a “nice guy,” (and I think Leo Durocher pretty much summed up the end result of that scenario), there’s a lot more to be positive about lately.
The good news is they say it takes 30 days to break a habit and were closing in on that milestone. The last time the Hawks won was on Jan 20th, against the Panthers. That was the night it took 3 hours instead of half an hour to get to the United Center. (When it snows it pours.) It seems like Hawk fans have been cast into the role of James Caan in the movie “Misery,” ever since. ‘Don’t worry you’re going to be just fine. I’m your number one fan,” said Annie. Maybe John Scott busting a type writer over someone’s head is the solution.
Coach Q’s countenance in the post-game interview after the Predator defeat seemed to say it all. Normally Q has a stern look on his face after a loss – Tuesday it appeared more melancholic, almost as if he finally was thinking “Uncle, uncle already.” The odd thing in this death march to Bataan is that we’ve played well enough to win several of the games. Every little mistake seems to get magnified under an electron microscope type resolution. Following are some of the quotes following the game in Music City;
Ryan Ellis – “it was a series of unfortunate bounces,” that led to the game winner.
Ryan Suter – “They held on to the puck quite a bit, but we got some fortunate bounces.”
Pekka (picked a peck of pickled peppers) Rinne – “it is hard to believe Chicago has lost that many games in a row. They played a strong game and as the game went along they got stronger.”
Marian Hossa – “Maybe it’s going to sound like an old story, but we battled tonight. We did a lot of good things.”
“Battled;” I love that word when describing a hockey game. While the 9 game losing streak has predictably led to frustrated fans calling for draconian changes, I think at least 90% of them would say they have seen no signs of quit in this team. The Hawks appear determined to win another game before this season is over. Clearly, fortunate has not been a word associated with the Blackhawks. The most common change the Hawk fans have been bellowing for is the player between the pipes.
There is little doubt we’ve been struggling in that area of the ice. Despite playing more than well enough to emerge victorious against the Preds, Emery appeared to let in a soft goal off a blast from about 10 feet in from the blueline by Ryan Ellis. There was some debate on the various Hawk websites as to the “softness” of the goal. Most fans thought he should have stopped it, ballyhooing the fact that it was deflected by Duncan Keith. The truth of the matter is, it was a seeing eye single. Actually, this painful Predator tally overshadowed a pretty solid performance by Sugar Ray. Jon Fromi’s was the only post game wrap that noted how well he staved off the Pred’s attack in the waning moments of the second period when things got, shall we say, rather dicey. Unfortunately for the Hawks, every roll of the bones is coming up craps at the moment. All in all, Razor did a pretty good job of keeping his front porch clean.
Funny, everyone was singing Rinne’s praises after the game. Rinne this and Rinne that-y’all make me sick. If Crow of Razor had given up either of the goals to Bicks or Hoss, Hawk fans would have been screaming bloody murder. Is Rinne’s play acceptable? Of course, but if you don’t shoot it into his midsection he is fallible. Tall don’t scare me! 19 total shots on goal, I’d take my chances against the NASCAR team in the playoffs. Bickell’s goal was a beauty – the man has a heavy shot. Makes me wonder; as spring approaches, with the scent of love and flowers in the air, who do you think would win a long drive contest on the Hawks. Whenever I really connected on a drive, I’ve always said “Man, that one felt heavy.” I’m guessing Bickell could send a golf ball pretty deep into the woods.
On the blueline, it appeared Sammy Lepisto played well enough to warrant more than 7 minutes of ice time. He made a tremendous play to set up the struggling, and possibly still injured, Jonathan Toews. Tazer’s weak shot was in sharp contrast to Ryan Suter’s goal. Both players had enough time to throw some grass up in the air to check for wind conditions, however Tazer’s shot was into the middle of the net and Suter’s was upper left hand corner. Ironically, it was a Toews miscue at center ice that led to Suter’s goal. I’m sure I’m not the only Hawk fan in Chicago thinking it might be time to see what we can get for Tazer! Of course I’m talking crazy, but not as crazy as a friend of mine who said Keith and Hossa need to take a seat in the press box next to each other. (9 game losing streaks tend to do that sort of thing to you – and no we definitely do not want 10.)
The solid play of 21 year old Dylan Olsen continues to be a bright spot in the dark shadows of Blackhawk hockey. He logged over 21 minutes on Tuesday. Talk about being tossed from the pan and into the fire. He sort of got blamed for the turnover that sent many to the ledge after Ellis scored. However, a blind pass along the boards by Keith sort of set the stage for that gaffe. As was pointed out by the one astute blogger at secondcityhockey.com, Bickell should have been hollering for Keith to pass it to him. As Robert Plant sang so many moons ago, “Communication breakdown, driving me insane….oooooh suffer.” It’s rather odd, and possibly revealing, but it seemed our d-corps didn’t really miss Hjalmarsson and Monty. I’m not saying I don’t want those two defensive pillars back – but the reinforcements acquitted themselves quite well.
While it is more than apparent the players have not even come close to quitting on Coach Q, and neither am I for the record, some of his decisions still leave me befuddled. Why is it that Viktor Stalberg played only 11 minutes. Nick Leddy made a great rush up the left side and dropped a pass to Viktor that he blasted towards Rinne. Pekka obviously struggled to fight that blast off. A couple more slappers like that and they might bring #9 out of retirement. (nobody can out hyperbole me.) I’m kind of out of the mainstream concerning the playing of John Scott. I sort of like his presence in the lineup. It adds an element of danger that Hawk fans quickly dismiss. He’s a force when it comes to behavior modification and you can bet your bottom dollar opposing players know when he’s on the ice. C’mon now you old timers, a little Hanson Brother’s mindset never hurt any hockey team.
In closing, I’m reminded of a play that “the good” Duncan Keith made, I think in the third period. He furiously fought off two tenacious Pred’s, preventing them from gaining control of the puck and establishing a beach head deep within our zone. Keith never corralled the puck but he managed to hold fort until reinforcements arrived. I love plays like that. The one’s that never show up on the scoreboard, but are every bit as exciting as a Kaner snapshot. This play epitomized what CT at hockeenight.com pointed out about the Hawks assiduous effort; “They played with Jump, Energy, Chutzpah and Zazz.” (What the hell is zazz-the granddaddy of all scrabble words?) Another wrap up said we won almost every loose puck battle, like the one I described above by Keith.
Well, as my mom used to say, “There’s no use crying over spilt mill.” (Actually, with nine mouths to feed she probably cracked us upside the head!) The effort has been there. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans; “And not only this, but we also exalt in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope.” I hope I can write a happy synopsis after we face another goaltending freak tonight in New York tonight, Lundqvist. (I’ve been waiting just for the right time to tie the Village People’s party song YMCA into a piece.) Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s struggle, I’m sure we’ll be causing some adversary sleepless nights when the playoffs begin in April. Which reminds me of the word “certainty” and one case where a brilliant DJ predicted U2’s success many moons ago.
Lin Brehmer, the DJ extraordinaire at WXRT (even though he doesn’t play enough Hot Tuna), has a highly entertaining feature called “Lin’s Bin” which is featured every Friday and Monday. While discussing some of the more pressing issues in our day, he never fails to emit a muffled chuckle as I drive to the coal mines. Lin did a segment on DJ’s and their importance in answering one’s questions about the meaning of life a few weeks back. He told about his first encounter with U2. It was 1991 and Bono and the boys were relative unknowns in America. In Lin’s own words;
“2nd interview in the U.S. ever. March 1991. Two hours before a $3 budget show that’s only 60% full. They’ve only released an import single. No one has ever heard anyone pronounce his (Bono’s) name. There is no internet. I call him Bone-o because Sonny is the only Bono the world has ever known. Thirty years later I tell him that story.”
Part of that 1991 interview can be heard if you go to the Lin’s Bin archives. It will make you laugh when Bono politely corrects him and Lin begins to do the old soft shoe. I sent a note back to Lin after I received this and asked if he sensed U2 were going to make it back then. Without hesitation he replied, “Was never so sure of anything in my life. I told Bono I’d see him in the Civic Center in a couple of years.” So just what does this story have to do with Blackhawk hockey?
For those of you “who don’t want to cry no more,” I’m absolutely certain the Blackhawks will weather this storm. It’s not a question of “if” we’ll make the playoffs, but how far we will advance. Before I wrap this up I want to make one more thing clear; I have nothing against John Sebastian and his Nashville Cats. He actually has, among others, a great song called “Younger Generation.” It’s just that we need the Hawks to more resemble Deep Purple at the moment. It’s time to “stick our finger in the fan”-(see, even Sebastian has a truculent side.) Time to do a little Space Truckin Blackhawks,
“Da da, da da da, daaaa, daaaa, da da, well we had a lot of luck on Venus…”
One last thing, totally unrelated to all the other unrelated things in this piece. How, in the name of the Lord, did Cousin It win the Westminster dog show? You’ve got to be kidding me! As Fred Willard noted in his “color” commentary in the classic movie, “Best in Show” is it possible some of the judges are on the take?
Rich Lindbloom is the author of the book War Drums in the Distance, a collection of articles Rich authored on the Blackhawks in their path to the 2010 Stanley Cup.